(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Diana was written by Diana Byrin.)
“Are you sure you want to make that move?” Kelly raised her brows as she stood behind the counter across from a teenager who sat on a stool. Between them was a game of chess. When he nodded, she sighed then moved her bishop across the board. “Sorry. Checkmate.” She gave him an apologetic shrug.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “You always win! Why don’t you ever let me win?”
Kelly reached across the counter and gave him a slight flick of her finger on his forehead. “Because! If I let you win, you’re not learning anything. When you win, it will mean more to you. Now…you know the rules. The loser…”
“Yeah, yeah, loser stocks the shelves.” He nodded and reached for the box of trinkets on the counter. As he pulled back, he gave her a determined look. “One day I will win. I swear!”
She acknowledged his determination with a nod. “One day.” When he was a child, she had tutored him in English, taught him to read and write, and encouraged his imagination. It was because of that imagination that he often stopped by her Muse Shop just to hang out, but of course she put him to work.
Putting away all the chess pieces on the underside of the chessboard, Kelly then folded the chessboard and looked up as the front door of the shop opened. She smiled. “Hello, Diana Byrin! Welcome to my Muse Shop. How are you doing today?”
“Hello! I’m doing pretty well. How are you and the Shop?” Diana walked to the counter and smiled as she quickly pulled her curly auburn hair into a ponytail.
“Oh, just won a game of chess, so I’m going quite well!” Kelly smirked as she put the chessboard behind the counter. “Go ahead and have a seat. Let me get something real quick.” With that, she disappeared to the back then emerged a moment later with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. “Homemade.” She placed them on the table. “I’ve been giving them to everyone who comes in here for an interview, and I wanted to make sure to offer you some as well.” She sat down and took a cookie. “So, tell me about yourself, what you do, and how you got into writing.”
Diana sat down and smiled wider at the sight of the cookies. “Ooooo, they look delicious.” She plucked one up and took a quick bite before she responded to Kelly. “Well, I usually spend a good bit of my days at the barn with the horse I rescued 3 months ago. He is finally rideable and I have been working with him every other day or so to get him in shape. I also have dogs, a cat, and a son who will be 4 in two days. They all keep me on my toes! As for writing…” She took another bite and looked to be pondering for a moment. “I don’t remember if there was ever one of those moment of ‘oh I want to write a story!’ I feel like it was a more natural transition between reading and doing my own storytelling. I’d get inspired by something and then go write about it. However I did stop writing for a long time and only in the last year or two have I really felt the NEED to get my own thoughts on paper as poetry and write stories and novels about the characters who have been making their way into my head lately.”
Kelly smiled as she nodded.. “Characters do have a way of doing that. So do you write, right now, primarily poetry or short stories or novels?” While waiting for a response, she finished off her cookie then took another one and broke off a piece of it.
“It’s a good mix. I’ve had one novel in the works for a few months now, but I will take breaks from it and end up writing more poems or letting my thoughts become organized into a sort of essay. A few days ago, however, I was inspired to write a novel, or series of novels, involving four or five main characters united across time and the world to protect their cultures and homes.” Diana leaned an elbow on the table as she started getting more comfortable, and her eyes lit up while talking about her latest story idea. “It’s something that will take a lot of research and probably way more work than anything I’ve done but the characters are already so alive and fierce.”
Seeing the brightness in Diana’s eyes, Kelly couldn’t help but grin. “Normally I try to ask more questions about the authors as individuals before diving into what they’re writing, but hey! I want to know about this story.” She set her elbows on the table and leaned forward as she sat on the edge of her chair. “Soo…tell me about this story and intriguing characters.”
Diana laughed a little “I don’t mean to dominate the conversation, but I’ve been very excited!” She leaned back in her chair and began to think about the five women who had been the focus of her imagination lately. “The premise of the story is still fairly simple and just a very minimal outline – these women are all from various places and eras of the world yet a threat in the future has somehow triggered a way for them to become aware of each other. They are all priestesses, or their cultures’ equivalent, and they range in location from ancient Greece to early AD Ireland to 16th century North America. I haven’t fleshed out all the details of this threat but I am thinking it will be my first time dabbling in science fiction and I’m super stoked about it!” Diana started to chuckle again and said, “See?! It always happens! I talk to you and end up being inspired by the Muse!”
This caused Kelly to laugh, and then she gave Diana a wide smirk and shrugged. “What can I say? I’m good at my job. You should have seen me yesterday. Totally got this guy inspired to write something he had never thought about, and by the time he left the Shop, he was basically muttering all sorts of stuff in order to remember everything.” She chuckled as she shook her head but then focused on the main topic. “So, science fiction, eh? This is certainly different than that other story you had told me about, but it sounds great.” Kelly then took another cookie off the plate. “What more can you tell me of it without spoiling it?”
Diana grabbed another cookie while she listened and grinned. “I can picture it easily, I’m already trying to mentally file all of these random sparks in my head about this story. And yes, this is definitely different than my other work in progress, though they will be related a bit on the historical fiction vibe and setting. I’m really hoping another big comparison will be strong heroines who stand on their own as well as stand with those around them.”
Finishing the cookie, Diana wiped the bit of crumbs from her hands and settled her elbow on the table again, leaning forward to explain the science fiction more. “Well, when I thought about these women all being priestesses or spiritual leaders I started to wonder what could be a sort of natural enemy so to speak for all of them. What came to mind is something completely alien and not from this world. Perhaps a creature who is like a deity but from another end of the universe. And this threat isn’t just a physical threat but a spiritual one as well, because it brings up questions on whether the Gods and Goddesses of these Earthen religions really are the creators or the almighty forces that people have made them out to be. And that is where the characters will explore their society and their innerselves very thoroughly and realize what they believe, what they’ve been told, and what is becoming reality…well it’s all a bit more than they could have realized.”
“I think both stories are relative to my life in some ways. So telling you about my stories is a way to explain myself and talk about me in a really roundabout, slightly extravagant way I suppose. One story features a young woman who is overcoming a direct threat and the inner battle that threat has dredged up. And now this story features women preparing for their future while honoring their pasts and learning all they can and moving forward while also maintaining deep relationships. All are fairly relevant to challenges I either am or have recently faced.”
“So…the gods and goddesses of Earth may exist?” Kelly raised her brows. “Well, if you have Tom Hiddleston’s Loki show up, let me know.” She winked but then sat back in her chair and folded her arms as she pondered all Diana had said. It was a lot to take it. “Sounds very complicated, and you said you only got this idea a few days ago?” She raised her brows then shook her head impressed. “I love it when ideas just latch on and won’t let go! So, what exactly inspired this idea?”
Diana laughed at the Loki reference and promised she’d send him Kelly’s way. She crossed one leg over the other and nodded at having just thought of the story the other day. “I was reading a series by Alyson Noel that I really enjoy. The main character in this series is from a town in New Mexico and the plot of the series involves her learning the stories, rituals, and magick of the Native American tribes she is descended from. I started thinking about how much I enjoy the history there and how it’s used in the writing then started appreciating that other YA readers likely learned a decent amount from the series. As a pagan I recognized a lot of the symbolism and meanings for things such as spirit guides and the elements; both have a huge role in the books. Anyway, I was reflecting on that and just felt this huge jolt. It was 1000x more powerful than a lightbulb idea going off.” A curl escaped from the ponytail when Diana quickly brought her hands up and apart in an attempt to emphasize the inspiration she felt. “From that jolt came a short but constant flow of ideas and each time I’ve sat down to think about the story more, I get pulled farther into it.”
Kelly nodded. She completely understood what it was like to get such a sudden flow of inspiration, and she smiled at Diana. “Sounds like a LOT of research and hard work to pull all this together. Will you be using an outline or just do it off the top of your head once you get everything arranged in your mind?”
“I am thinking I will need an outline to keep track of where each character is at in each other’s timeline. Getting the timing right in a way I can somehow organize and interconnect the characters will be a big challenge. The research is intimidating as well but history is a passion of mine and I am excited to learn more about the past in general as well as how the way women in the book’s various settings lived will affect my characters.”
“Well, if you need help with outline, let me know. I have a few things in the shop that might help you.” Kelly glimpsed across the room to a specific book on one of the shelves that she knew contained useful articles on story outlining.
However, when she was looking that way, she realized what time it was by the clock on the wall, and Kelly’s eyes widened. “I can’t believe our time is up already!” She shook her head as she looked back at Diana apologetic. “I have so many more questions I’d love to ask, but unfortunately I need to go to Cuskelom for another interview. But thank you for stopping by.” She smiled as she rose to her feet, and then she gestured to their surroundings. “Feel free to browse….but then again, it might give you even more ideas.”
“I am sure I will be asking for your input if not yelling for help soon.” Diana laughed and stood up as well. “I can’t believe this went by so fast. I think it’s a foreshadowing of how lost I will soon be in this story! Thank you for having me, it was a pleasure as always. I think I will look around a bit!” She smiled then looked around and took in the various shelves and their contents.
“Be careful of the plot bunnies.” With that warning, Kelly went to the front of the shop where her helper was still putting away items. “I need to go to Cuskelom. Will be back soon. Keep an eye on the shop.” She then headed for the mirror near the back of the room.
“Rematch when you get back?”
She glanced over her shoulder then shrugged. “Maybe.” Then she smiled and walked away.
NOTE: The working title for Diana’s story is ‘Vengeance Crowned’, but it is aimed to be released this coming spring. You may follow her on the social media sites for more updates!
And for Twitter she insisted I include this: “Diana says Twitter is for the birds…but you can find her sharing giveaways from her favorite bloggers with the handle @CircusEmpress”